Photo by Plunderbund
It looks like Wisconsin won't be the only state with dramatic elections to settle a fight over collective bargaining rights this year.
Now that the Ohio state Senate has approved S.B. 5 by a single vote, thanks significantly to Republicans pulling an opponent of the bill off the relevant committee at the last second, unions are shifting their focus to a statewide referendum that would prevent the law from being implemented:
Union leaders and Democrats have already begun shifting their focus to a referendum fight, which would require union supporters to gather hundreds of thousands of signatures in the days following an expected signing of SB 5 by Gov. John Kasich (R).
Once that's done, the law could be placed on hold (meaning it wouldn't go into effect at all) while Ohio waits to see what voters have to say about SB 5. And that's a fight the Democrats say they can win.(...)
What comes next could be a long game for both sides. Even if Kasich sings SB 5 next week as many expect he will, it will be at least 90 days until the law goes into effect. That period will give the opponents of the bill the chance to gather the 231,147 signatures (based on 6% of the vote total in the 2010 gubernatorial race, as state law requires) they'll need to put a repeal referendum on the ballot. They can start the process with just 1,000 signatures. The entire process is outlined here.
If opponents of S.B. 5 can get enough signatures, the referendum will take place in November of this year. It's also possible, depending on the time frame in which the signatures are gathered and submitted, that the referendum will take place as late as November 2012.
There are several common threads between the fights in Ohio and Wisconsin. In both states, newly elected, hard-right Republican Governors are coordinating with each other, and the wider conservative movement, to bust unions for the sake of busting unions. In both states, the response was massive protests from unions and progressive allies. In both states, in the face of unresponsive Republican state legislatures, organizing has now begun for special elections.
Perhaps the most important common thread is how opponents of the union-busting legislation in both states are going all-out, using every legal and organizational means at their disposal to fight back. That, I believe, is why these fights have been so inspiring to progressive activists around the country. Instead of sitting around and having yet another meta discussion about what progressives should be doing to push back against conservative and corporate extremism, we are watching a union-led coalition doing exactly what needs to be done. Meta has been replaced by awe of, and solidarity with, those fighting back in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere.